Is 'Cool Japan' truly cool?


Influenced by 'Cool Britannia' —a media-related term and policy that had thrived in the British culture back in the 1990s—'Cool Japan' was endorsed by American journalists back in 2002. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry established the 'Cool Japan' Promotional Office in 2010. Following this, the elevation of 'Cool Japan' strategy as a national policy, aimed to capture demands from overseas to create job opportunities for related industries.

However, subcultures such as manga, anime, and traditional cultures such as tea ceremonies, technology industry, disappointingly even child pornography, were all discussed as representing 'Cool Japan.' Contrary to its recognition, it was difficult to develop empathy for such a policy. This was due to unclear philosophies of overall content, as well as a lack of international perspectives. 

In 2014, the director of 'Cool Japan,' Tomomi Inada appointed our CEO Eisuke Tachikawa, as the concept leader of the 2nd Cool Japan Movement Promotion Conference. Tachikawa had previously participated in various cases related to transmissions of creative industries in Asia.First and foremost, is 'Cool Japan' truly cool? Conversely, what kind of policy would make an impact on Japanese industries, to be noticed as cool?​​​​​​​



「COOL JAPAN」に含まれる要素を可視化した図
By further organizing the elements, it helped us to identify important genres.


 The quality of 'Cool Japan' can be organized by coordinates of 'Cute' 'Beautiful' 'Innovation' and 'Tradition'.​​​​​​​


Reasons for 'Cool Japan' project, and what a 'Cool Japan' mission is.


Japan is providing creative solutions to world challenges.


To explore the complexity and unanswered questions, we decided to re-set the purpose of "Cool Japan."

In all four conferences directed by Tachikawa, we suggested opening a dialogue-type discussion. It had never been done before, in previous expert panels. To re-evaluate the fundamentality of 'Cool Japan,' we had film directors, actors, actresses, Noh artists, athletes, and other representatives participating pro bono. In doing this, we were able to exchange opinions more openly, where usually hierarchy would interfere, and people at stake would group.

Based on the discussion from the conferences, we wanted to set a model that could solve various problems with the help from the content industry, and promote Japan to the world. Thus, the 'Cool Japan' focuses on "Japan as a country that provides creative solutions for global issues" as its mission.

We realized that the Japanese content industry, which includes anime and manga, had the power to sweep the world. Japan could utilize the power of this industry as a method to solve social issues and raise it to the export industry. If so, it could not only create a new content industry but also recognize its contribution to the world. By doing so, we could be able to achieve a truly 'Cool Japan.'

To put these practices into action, we designed the proposal into three steps: 
1. Promote domestic growth. 2. Connect national and international. 3. Present Japan as contributive to the world. 
Furthermore, we organized nine missions to embody each mission.







Below: Japan's Ministerial Declaration of Cool Japan Mission

Japan, a Country Providing Creative Solutions to the World’s Challenges 
More than 18 months have passed since I took office as the first minister in charge of the “Cool Japan” strategy. Since the 1990s, such forms of Japan-based entertainment as Japanimation, manga and electronic games have been enjoyed in many countries, and tasty, healthy Japanese food has attracted more and more people even while we, the Japanese people, are losing confidence and energy, and becoming more introverted due to prolonged economic struggles. I position the Cool Japan strategy as a social movement for each of us to rediscover various aspects of Japan’s attractiveness and then disseminate it to the world. The government has been encouraging this movement through, for example, a high-profile campaign by the Prime Minister and support for positive private-sector activities such as finance through Cool Japan Fund Inc. Since assuming this ministerial position, I have visited the U.S. and many countries in Europe and Asia, and felt a very strong interest in Cool Japan among the local people. It is also a fact, however, that advertising various different aspects of Japan’s appeal in an uncoordinated manner fails to focus on certain targets, and thus weakens the message. Therefore, the current situation is not satisfactory. The decision to hold the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo has been made, and there is momentum that supports the Cool Japan strategy.

The Cool Japan Movement Promotion Council has been discussing how we should further strengthen the message so as not to miss this opportunity. We have invited a young, spirited designer, Eisuke Tachikawa, to serve as the concept director, and a variety of artists, athletes and creative professionals on the front line not only in Japan but also internationally, to participate as guests. With some members unheard of in conventional, conservative government and amid a loose atmosphere, we held active discussions and I also voiced my opinions while enjoying the opportunity. Through our discussions we realized that what is expected from Cool Japan is not simply some economic effects achieved by introducing and promoting Japanese culture. Japan is well versed in facing and tackling challenges, and has already been addressing a number of difficulties, including a declining birthrate and an aging population, environmental and energy issues, and financial reconstruction that many countries are likely to face in the near future. Japan is a nation of innovation that since long ago has flexibly imported the products of foreign cultures and developed them as its original culture, amid its harsh environment of limited land and a lack of resources. Japanshould now take the initiative in solving difficult issues by using the originality and ingenuity characteristic of its people, and thus become a world leader. Japan’s brand value as a nation will be raised if other countries in the world can use Japan's case as a reference when challenged by similar problems. In other words, I hereby declare that, “Japan, a country providing creative solutions to the world’s challenges,” is the new mission of Cool Japan. Based on this declaration, I had the core members of the Council list some attractive actions.

While the government has implemented various projects in the past, the Cool Japan proposals made by so many front-line professionals as a group are unprecedented. Being packed with ideas to create new businesses and grow existing ones, these proposals should, by all means, be taken advantage of by government offices in their respective activities. Another remarkable achievement was the development of human resources, including the members and guests who participated in the Council. We ask for the continuous cooperation of the members and guests, by providing us with advice and cooperation in events when the government offices implement their projects. The Cool Japan strategy has entered the next stage. There is no end to raising the brand value of “Japan,” and we look forward to taking on new challenges in the future.

August 26, 2014
Minister in charge of the “Cool Japan” strategy​​​​​​​


私が初代クールジャパン戦略担当大臣に就任し1年半以上が過ぎた。 1990年代以降、私たち日本人が長引く景気低迷などで自信や元気を失って内向きになってしまった間にも、日本のアニメ、マンガ、ゲームなどのコンテンツは多くの国々で親しまれ、おいしくヘルシーな日本食もファンをどんどん増やしてきた。私は、そうした日本の持つ様々な素晴らしさを今一度私たち一人一人が再発見し、世界に発信し•ていく社会的な運動(ムーブメント)としてクールジャパン戦略を位置付け、政府は、総理によるトップセールスなどムーブメントの盛り上げを図ると同時に、「クールジャパン機構」によるファイナンスなど意欲ある民間の取組を応援することを進めてきた。大臣就任以来、米国、欧州、アジアの国々を訪れたが、各国でクールジャパンに対する非常に強い関心を実感した。 

しかし、様々な日本の良さをバラバラと発信するのではピントが甘くなり、メッセージが弱くなってしまうのも事実であり、現状は十分とは言えない。2020年の東京オリンピック・パラリンピック開催が決定し、クールジャパン戦略に対する追い風が吹いているこの好機を逃すことのないよう、CJムーブメント推進会議において更なる発信力強化に向けた議論を重ねてきた。気鋭の若手デザイナーである太刀川英輔氏をコンセプト・ディレクターに迎え、日本のみならず、世界の第一線で活躍する多彩なアーティスト、アスリート、ク リエイターにもゲストとして多数参加いただき、従来の政府のお堅い会議ではあり得ない顔ぶれと自由な雰囲気で大いに議論し、私も楽しみながら意見を言わせてもらった。 議論で見えてきたのは、クールジャパンに期待されることは単に日本文化の紹介や発信を通じた経済効果を期待するものではないということである。日本は少子高齢化、環境・エネルギー問題、財政再建など世界の多くの国々がこれから直面するであろう困難な課題を既に抱え、その解決に取り組んでいる「課題先進国」である。日本は古来より、狭い国土、乏しい資源といった厳しい環境の中で、外国の文物を柔軟に受け入れ、我が国独自の文化として発展させてきた伝統を持つ、イノベーションの国である。今こそ、日本らしい創意工夫で率先して困難な課題を解決していき、世界の先頭に立つ。そして世界の国々が同様の課題に直面した時、日本のやり方を参考にできるようになれば、日本という国のブランド価値をより一層高めていくことにつながる。つまり、「世界の課題をクリエイティブに解決する日本」こそ、新たなクールジャパンのミッションであるとここに宣言したい。

この宣言を踏まえて、会議のコアメンバーを中心に魅力的なアクションをまとめてもらった。政府もこれまで様々な取組を行っているが、これだけ第一線の方々がまとまってクールジャパンの提言を行うことは例のないことである。提言には新事業の創出や、既存事業を加速させるアイディアが詰まっており、是非各省庁にはそれぞれの取組に生かしてもらいたい。また、この会議に参加いただいたメンバーやゲストの方々という人財を築くことができたことも大きな成果である。今後の各省庁の事業の実施にあたり、アドバイスの提供や、イベントヘの協力など、メンバーやゲストの方々には引き続きの御協力をお願いしたい。 クールジャパン戦略は次のステージに入った。「日本」というブランドの価値を高めることに終わりはない。これからも新たなチャレンジをどんどん行っていきたい。

クールジャパン戦略担当大臣 稲田朋美


Memes created from the proposal by the current generation.


The 'Cool Japan' proposal, announced along with mission declaration by Minister Inada, was highly regarded from both the government officials and creative workers. Although there was high anticipation of subsequent developments, the remodeling of the cabinet occurred shortly after the announcement. Unfortunately, this resulted in the change of Minister who was in charge of 'Cool Japan.' Consequently, there became a big gap between the content proposal and specific policies. However, since 2014, trends such as "JAPAN HOUSE" have become business bases for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, currently developing in three cities overseas. With the SDGs accelerating ahead within the industrial world, we believe that this proposal was by no means irrelevant. We are now working on various projects promoting solutions with creative power, such as "Tokyo Bousai."

Moreover, memes were created through 'Cool Japan' transformed and is still maintaining its purpose today. We still believe that this proposal is useful not only for the promotion of content in Japan but also for overall administrative reforms in the future. Please have a look at the full text uploaded below.

稲田大臣によるミッション宣言とともに発表されたクールジャパン提言は、行政関係者、クリエイティブ産業従事者の双方から高い評価を獲得しました。その後の展開にも大いに期待が寄せられましたが、発表直後に内閣改造が行われ、担当大臣が変わったことなどにより、提言の内容と具体的な政策には大きな開きが生まれる結果となりました。しかし、2014年から外務省が海外3都市で展開している日本文化の発信拠点事業「JAPAN HOUSE」や、産業界で加速するSDGsなどの潮流に先駆け、この提言がまとめられたことは決して無意味ではなかったと信じています。また、私たち自身も「東京防災」などを通じて、クリエイティブの力で社会課題の解決を推進するプロジェクトの数々に取り組んでおり、クールジャパン提言から生まれたミームは、形を変えて引き継がれています。

この提言は日本のコンテンツ振興のみならず、今後の行政の改革全般に役立つものであると今も私達は信じています。ここにその全文をアップロードしますので、ぜひ御覧ください。COOL JAPAN PROPOSAL downloadable PDF: English日本語


Art Direction
NOSIGNER (Eisuke Tachikawa)


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